tv Q A CSPAN March 12, 2012 6:00am-7:00am EDT
it includes a letter that a suspicious nun had sent to hoover four years before calling father drinan, a communist plant inside the catholic church." what were the circumstances? >> well, this was a congressman, father, robert drinan, from massachusetts. very anti-war pacifist. a liberal massachusetts democrat. and in the files, including those files was a letter from a suspicious nun. saying that father drinan was a tool of the communist party. well, this was in the beginning of a long battle after j. edgar hoover died. between congress and the f.b.i. over the powers that the f.b.i. had exerted for decades, under hoover, to gather political information, conduct wiretapping, plant bugs, hidden microphones in people's homes
and offices, break into their homes and offices and steal their personal effects. and this was part of the great battle of the 1970's that resulted in the fall of richard nixon. the investigations into government misconduct by the c.i.a. and the f.b.i. and eventually passage of new laws that restricted the f.b.i. >> in that same chapter, you have the following quote. "reverend drinan started shouting. they shoot to kill, they shoot to kill he recounted. i figure the guy had gone completely bonkers, healy said." who is healy and what were -- >> here was an f.b.i. agent who had worked under hoover for decades hunting communists. and he had the job of giving congressmen a tour of the new f.b.i. headquarters which is down the street here across from the justice department. and the f.b.i. headquarters
which was located in the justice department itself. and richard drinan went to the firing -- a range in the basement where f.b.i. agents keep their shooting target skills up. and he asked what the bureau's policy was on firearms. and agent healy told him, well, you know, we try to settle things peaceably. and then what, he said? then we shoot to kill. and drinan starting going down the halls of the justice department yelling "they shoot to kill." it was emblematic and why i have it in "enemies: a history of the f.b.i." this is emblematic of the kind of struggle that was taking place. just beginning to take place between the f.b.i. as hoover had left it, after 48 years in power. and the rest of the government of the united states. >> what's the story behind you
taking 25, 27 years i think it is, on a freedom of information request? >> when literally a few weeks after my last book, "legacy of ashes, history of the c.i.a." came out, i got a call from a lawyer here in washington who had represented another reporter from "the new york times." in a freedom of information act suit that he, the reporter, had filed. in 1981, 26, almost 27 years earlier, and it had just come to fruition. after all this struggle. and the lawyer said he's not interested anymore. he's moved on to other things. these are j. edgar hoover's intelligence files. and four bankers' boxes of them. do you want to see them? i said yes, i do. and they're part of the foundation of this book. these are the files that hoover kept on american intelligence from the end of world war ii until his death 27 years later in 1972.
>> we have a list of all the people that have run the f.b.i. both acting and ones -- >> not many people. >> on the screen is hoover, l. patrick gray, clarence kelly, james adams, that was a short one, and william webster, a long one, nine years, john otto. william sessions for seven years, lloyd clark interim, lewis freeh, 7 3/4 years. thomas picard three months and robert mueller 10 1/2 years. who on that list would you put at the top of the list for being the most honest and who would be at the bottom? >> well, unquestionably bob mueller who has run the bureau for last decade. and will run it for another four years, at once most successful, most powerful, and the most civil liberties minded i would say f.b.i. director in the history of the f.b.i. which goes back 103 years.
every day bob mueller, who took office, god help him, on september 4, 2001, a week before this city and new york city were attacked. every day he has to calibrate a very difficult calculus. it's like a tug-of-war. on the one hand, national security. on the other hand, civil liberties. they got to get this right. in america, under the constitution, if we want security and liberty, we want to be both safe and free. but these are opposing forces. and they've got to be balanced. >> what's the story about bob mueller in the oval office with the president, george w. bush? >> well, you'll remember that in the weeks after the 9-11 attacks, president george w. bush instituted a very, very secret program of electronic eavesdropping. the national security agency, which is responsible for the gathering of electronic
intelligence by which i mean emails, telecommunications, cell phones, computer data. anything that can be transmitted by wire or by satellite through the ether of this country and around the world. president bush issued a very secret, very difficult and constitutionally very dangerous program to track and trap and trace emails and telephone calls from all over the world in the united states. now, if you send an email from karachi, pakistan to beijing, china, chances are that email will be routed through the united states for a fraction of a second. the united states government was trapping this material and trapping the emails and phone
calls of americans without judicial warrants, from the secret court of federal judges who authorized this. so this went on for more than two years. by the start of 2004, bob mueller head of the f.b.i., jim called me the acting attorney general and john ashcroft, the attorney general. ashcroft was ill in the hospital when he found out about this program. it literally made him sick. and he was rushed to georgetown hospital a few miles from here with acute pancreatitis. he could have died. and that's how secret it was. the attorney general did not know the full scope of this program. there were probably 10 people in the government who did. so bob mueller, head of the f.b.i., and the top two guys in the justice department, the attorney general and his number two, determined that the program is illegal. and mueller writes out a resignation letter by hand. puts it in his pocket, walks into the oval office and said mr. president, this electronic
eavesdropping program is illegal. unconstitutional. and unless you skin it back, and get it within the ambit of the law, i'm going to resign. and so is the attorney general. and so is the deputy attorney general. well, visions of the saturday night massacre. under nixon, danced in president bush's head when two attorney generals went down, resigning in protest. he was up for up for re- election. his government could have fallen as nixon's did under the impact of such a series of resignations. and mueller won. and at that moment the tug-of- war we were speaking of between national security and civil liberties began to become more even. >> how did you find that out? >> just two years ago, the inspector general of the justice department did a report in which he released mueller's handwritten notes of that meeting.
bush also describes it in his memoirs and clear with all due respect to the former president that he lied to the f.b.i. that is a felony. >> here's a footnote. under the chapter "flaws in the armor," book is a classic washington memoir and often dubious and disingenuous and i cited only to reflect freeh's direct experience, freeh distorts many aspects of his dealings with the white house. and you also say in your book that louis freeh refused ever go to the oval office while he was the f.b.i. director in the clinton administration. >> well, here was the problem. louis freeh was head of the f.b.i. in 1993 a few months into the clinton administration and he quickly determined that the president of the united states was not the commander in chief but the target of a criminal investigation. the target of several criminal
investigations run by the f.b.i. freeh fought in a rather awkward position. and during the eight years of clinton's presidency, these two men spoke face-to-face or on the phone five or six times. now, this is a recipe for disaster. you cannot have silence like this. between the f.b.i. director and the president. or between the f.b.i. and the c.i.a. which was also a serious problem. and this failure to communicate was one of the approximate causes of the success of the 9-11 attack. the f.b.i. under louis freeh with all respect to louis freeh, great f.b.i. agent, great federal prosecutor, fair- minded federal judge, he had everything it took to be a great f.b.i. director. except a sense of proportion i would argue. the f.b.i. spent three more times money, people, manpower,
and investigating specious allegations of chinese campaigning contributions than he did investigating terrorism in the 1990's. >> ok. i asked you earlier who would you put on top, bob mueller. who would you put of all these f.b.i. directors on the bottom and by the way add to that anybody you're writing about, presidents or people that were around presidents, who would have been the most dishonest? >> let's start with the f.b.i. >> ok. >> god rest his soul, l. patrick gray, who died very recently. was selected to succeed j. edgar hoover. after hoover died. nearly 40 years ago. and this election was made by president nixon. who wanted to be blunt, a stooge, as the head of the f.b.i. gray had never run anything bigger than a submarine.
and suddenly he's asked to replace j. edgar hoover. and nixon is telling him, listen, i'm going to ask you to do illegal things. and you're going to shut up about them. and if asked, you're going to lie about them. and gray, poor man, saluted and said yes, sir. here was the commander in chief telling him to lie, to keep secrets from congress. and to do whatever it took to uphold the presidency. nixon was also running for re- election. gray was indicted for lying to congress and other crimes. and the justice department decided that it wasn't worth the candle. he was actually indicted first and foremost for conspiring to violate the civil rights of americans along with his number two and three men at the f.b.i., mark felt, who we know better now as deep throat. and grant miller, convicted of conspiring to violate the civil
rights of americans. they were pardoned by president reagan early in his first term. >> and on the mark felt story, i think you said -- it was richard kleindienst that told patrick gray to fire felt five times and he wouldn't do it? >> richard nixon wanted to fire j. edgar hoover and wouldn't do it. didn't have the courage. didn't have the spine. >> why not? >> fire j. edgar hoover? i don't think the president could have gotten away with it. this speaks to hoover's unique standing and status in the 20th century in american government. >> let me stop you there. just for a second. but because of hoover, the law was changed, wasn't it? >> 10 years. >> but robert mueller is beyond that. >> he's been asked to stay beyond 10 years by the president and the congress has said yes. >> go back to j. edgar hoover. >> well, you were asking me to rank the directors. and hoover stands alone by -- he's like the washington
monument. he stands alone like a statue encased in grime as one of the most powerful men who ever served in washington in the 20th century. 11 presidents, 48 years, from woodrow wilson to richard nixon. there's no one like him. and a great deal of what we know or we think we know about j. edgar hoover is myth. and legend. there is a movie that's still running in some places about hoover. >> called "j. edgar." >> that basically posits that the cold war was the result of hoover's repressed homosexuality. well, with all due respect to clint eastwood who is a great filmmaker, that's nonsense. hoover persecuted countless thousands of gays in the government. chased them from the government. because he deemed homosexuality a security risk. he conflated it with communism. that's a more important fact
than gossip. that's all it is. that the man liked to wear dresses. >> i think -- most of the media, interestingly enough, came to j. edgar's defense after that movie. why do you think they would go there in a movie but also where did that story come from? >> that hoover was gay? >> wasn't it more than one source on that? >> half a century. it all started back in 1937 when hoover started persecuting gays in the government. up to and including franklin delano roosevelt's favorite assistant secretary of state. drove him from public life. >> who was his -- >> sumner wells. and his enemies, and he had them, started spreading the rumor that he was gay. here was a 42-year-old man who lived with his mother. he was born and raised and lived with his mom less than a mile from where we're sitting.
just the other side of the supreme court and the library of congress. and when his mom died the following year, he lived by himself for the first time in his life. 43 years old. so his enemies, some of whom had been accused of communism by hoover, these are high ranking people in the roosevelt administration, started spreading the rumor that hoover was a homosexual. and the rumor never died. there's no basis to it, no evidence. but it makes a good story, right? >> i found this story speaking of the whole communist story in the government, this is a reuters story that came out near the end of february. and i don't know if you've seen this. but the vladimir putin praised cold war era scientists on thursday for stealing u.s. nuclear secrets so that the united states would not be the world's sole power and comments reflecting his vision of russia
as a counter to the u.s. and with suitcases full of data helped the so soviet union build an atomic bomb. he told military commanders. when the states already had nuclear weapons and the soviet union was only building them, we got a significant amount of information through soviet foreign intelligence channels. putin said. >> here is a rare example of vladimir putin speaking the truth. that's absolutely true. and to hoover's great shame, and sorrow, and fury, the soviets were 20 years ahead of the f.b.i. when it came to espionage. they penetrated largely through moles and british intelligence high ranking figures in british intelligence. and a nuclear physicist, a german, who was not only a great nuclear physicist but a secret communist, who worked on -- who was sent by the british to work on the manhattan project to build the bomb, he understood not only how the atomic bomb worked, the bomb that we dropped on hiroshima and
nagasaki but how the hydrogen bomb would work infinitely more powerful. thousands of times more powerful. and when president harry truman found that out, in 1950, he authorized the united states to build the hydrogen bomb and we were off to the nuclear race. >> put it in context. we went through the mccarthy period. >> that we did. >> where he was trying to you know out the communists in the government. and everybody on the left reacted, some of them do to this day, but in reading your book you say a lot of that stuff was true back then. >> mccarthy overreached very, very badly. he was not a stable person. he was a drunk. the truth was not in him. but occasionally, he hit the mark. he hit the bull's eye. and every time he hit a bull's eye, in his allegations of communism, it was because hoover steered his hand. and steadied his aim. with files. with facts.
and it is a fact that communist spies penetrated in the period of the 1940's and up to 1950. penetrated the pentagon, the state department, the military, the c.i.a., and the f.b.i. and hoover had been chasing communists and communist spies since world war i. he probably knew more about communism than any person in this country outside the communist party in the united states. he had made a very close study of it going back to its origins in this country. when the communist party of the united states was founded in chicago, labor day, 1919, hoover had five agents reporting to him. >> 1918. >> 1919.
labor day, 1919. >> five agents. >> yes, sir. >> how many are there today? >> in the whole f.b.i.? >> uh-huh. >> who are working issues of terrorism and intelligence? over 10,000. but it's a rather remarkable fact that here at the founding moment of the communist party of the united states, hoover's got five agents inside the building. including a russian speaker. >> did you figure out what the motive was for the americans helping out the soviets? >> they thought stalin was going to win. >> but why does that look attractive to them back then? >> in the period when the united states was fighting fascism and fighting hitler, aside from a rather awkward period where hitler and stalin
signed a nonaggression pact in the early days of the war in europe before the united states got in the war, stalin was killing more nazis than churchill and franklin roosevelt combined. and the attractions of communism during the great depression before the war were seductive. to romantics. to people who thought capitalism was failing. and to i would call them a certain class of limousine liberals who thought it was going to work. well, we know better now. >> you take us through something called the houston plan. did you talk to mr. houston? toyou know, i didn't talk him for this book. he has rarely discussed it
since he left the government and moved back to indiana. >> who is he? >> well, tom charles houston was a 29-year-old lawyer in the white house who worked for richard nixon, who admired richard nixon. and late in nixon's second term, first term, before he ran for re-election, in 1970-1971, the nixon white house determined that hoover was losing his grip. hoover was now past 75 years old. and he dent want to do some of the dirty tricks that nixon had ordered him to do. wiretapping, breaking, bugging. surveillance, stealing people's personal effects and doing it without judicial warrants on the order of the president. so they set up their own bucket shop, didn't they? in the white house. known as the plumbers.
houston from the white house made a liaison with hoover's intelligence chief at the f.b.i. bill sullivan. so known to some of his colleagues as "crazy billy," had been working the intelligence beat for hoover since the 1950's. he wanted to take over the f.b.i. when hoover died. and he overreached. and he tried to take over the bureau when hoover was still alive. with this plan, which is known as the houston plan because it came out, originated in the white house but it was written by bill sullivan. from the f.b.i. and it would have revived the entire program of warrantless wiretapping, break-ins, buggings, don't talk to a judge about this. do it on the president's say so, that the f.b.i. had been doing since franklin roosevelt authorized to do it in the 1930's. and hoover wouldn't do this. for fear of getting caught. he thought it could ruin
everything that he worked to build for half a century. well, we know what happened. 40 years ago, this summer, hoover refused to carry out this plan. and nixon went ahead and did it anyway. he set up the plumbers, his own team of break-m and bugging artists and six weeks after hoover died they got caught breaking into watergate into the democratic party headquarters. >> is there any excuse for richard nixon wanting this stuff done? >> nixon felt, and on this point hoover would agree, that the violent arm of the new left, weather underground, for example, weathermen, who were capable of planting a bomb in the capitol, of going to the pentagon where you and i can't go without security clearances and passes, and planting a bomb in the bathroom. >> this was done. >> they did it.
he thought that the violent arm of the new left, fewer than 100 people, were actually building and planting bombs, was capable of overthrowing the government of the united states. that they were in cahoots with beijing and moscow. and this fear spread. the f.b.i. couldn't infiltrate the weather underground. their agents, you know, had crew cuts and shiny shoes and white shirts. they couldn't get good intelligence. the fear that these people were somehow in cahoots with the liberal wing of the democratic party and everybody who opposed the war in vietnam and the civil rights movement, and in fact everybody who opposed richard nixon to nixon's left, tens of millions of americans, were conspiring to overthrow the government and to somehow ruin richard nixon in his
campaign for re-election. well, this is a form of psychosis. he wasn't the first president to fall prey to it. his predecessor, lyndon johnson, fell the same way. >> take us up close to the friendship of lyndon johnson and mr. hoover. >> well, they lived across the street from each other. here in washington. >> at what time in their lives? >> from the late 1940's through the end of the 1950's when lyndon johnson became vice president. 30th place in georgetown. so they were across the street. neighbors. they would have a jack daniel's every now and then or a barbecue a steak. and once lyndon johnson bought a dog for his daughters and named it edgar. were they friends? not in the sense that you and i are friends. hoover didn't have any friends.
>> did they think they were friends? >> they used each other masterfully. here at c-span you've got hours and hours of tapes archived of these two men talking together and these conversations are transcribed in the book and talking on the phone. johnson recorded it. johnson bugged hoover. and it's extraordinary. the flattery, the praise, the stroking. >> and didn't l.b.j. tell him i love you? >> you're my brother. you're my closest ally in government. and this led to some extraordinary things. like when president johnson told j. edgar hoover to crush the ku klux klan. hoover didn't want to do that. he thought the problem in the south with the civil rights movement wasn't the segregationists. he thought the problem was as he put it the integrationists. but his president told him to do it. an extraordinary conversation
when lyndon johnson says i want you to give the same kind of intelligence on the klan that you have on the communists. >> not communists but commonists. >> that's how they both pronounced the word, yes. and edgar hoover said yes, sir. and he and the f.b.i. over the next three years from 1964 to 1967 broke the klan like dried twigs. let's remember that this was the most violent terrorist group in this country in the 20th century. they murdered countless people. they blew up churches. they blew up synagogues. they murdered children. they were pitiless people. and hoover and the f.b.i. infiltrated them, sabotaged them, and destroyed them. >> we'll come back to j. edgar hoover, william sessions, you don't think much of him. in the book. >> i would say that no f.b.i.
director after hoover ever got a grip on the job until the present director. >> who appointed weapon sessions? >> he came to the f.b.i. under jimmy carter. and he stayed under ronald reagan who then made him the head of the c.i.a. >> and he was a judge. >> he was a judge. an extremely nice man. if you've ever met him. just about as pleasant as you can be. from st. louis, a federal judge. moderate republican of the kind that you don't see too much anymore. had excellent people skills. and i'm not sure he ever got a grasp on the f.b.i. >> let me read you a quote from your book. he would lose control of the f.b.i. long before he lost his job. how did he lose control? >> not effectively exercising power. the power that the f.b.i. has
under law is nearly limitless. with the signature of a judge, and sometimes without the signature of a judge, they can read your mail. they can break into your computer. they can break into your house. and do it in the name of national security and the defense of the united states of america. now, judge webster, and he would like to be called judge, i don't think ever got a grip on how to use this power in an effective way. he wanted it done in a legal way. he didn't want to be caught violating the constitution like his predecessors. but the f.b.i. fell behind the curve in a number of ways in those years. for example, it was penetrated by a soviet spy who worked for the f.b.i., an f.b.i. agent named bob henson who stole
pretty much every important national security secret you could get in the f.b.i. >> and is in prison. >> yeah. but he ran files for 22 years. i know. we shake our heads. how is this possible, right? any f.b.i. director, any c.i.a. director who goes to sleep at night without thinking that the enemy is sleeping in his camp is a fool. >> how -- let me start with this. what one thing did you find that you put at the top of your list in all the research you did, a nugget -- >> that was news to me? >> yeah. >> that shocked and surprised me? >> yeah. >> after 25 years of studying this question? >> yes. >> well, i never knew that hoover's f.b.i. ran a coup in the dominican republic. that was just amazing. i knew that the united states,
under president johnson, just at the time that we were committing combat troops to vietnam, in 1965, sent the 82nd airborne down to the dominican republic which is as you know is an island nation on the island of hispaniola. half is the dominican republic. half is haiti. to quell what they caught, what they feared incorrectly was a communist insurrection. run by none other than fidel castro. well, the c.i.a. didn't have any good intelligence on what was going on. what was going on was that the duly elected president, his name was juan bosh, had been kicked out by a military junta. and had fled to puerto rico. but you know who did have intelligence? it wasn't the army. it wasn't the c.i.a. it wasn't the state department. it was j. edgar hoover's f.b.i. special agent in charge of san juan, wally estel, amazing guy,
amazing career. >> did you talk to him by the way? >> he did an oral history. he's gone now. he's dead. just a few years. just an amazing guy. he did this extraordinary oral history for the f.b.i. wally estel special agent in charge in puerto rico and not only just tapping juan bosh's phone, ok? he's tapping every phone juan bosh is using including public telephones. and bosh is working with his people back in the dominican republic to try to get back into office. after all, he was the elected office. and when lyndon johnson found out that only the f.b.i. knew what was going on in the dominican republic, he told hoover to send a platoon of dozens and dozens and dozens of agents down there to gather intelligence and to make sure that lyndon johnson's man got elected in a free and fair election in which the united states secretly kicked in
millions of dollars. over the course of the next year. ad, you know, there weren't lot of spanish speaking agents in the f.b.i. it was almost exclusively white male graduates of jesuit schools and law schools. but there were quite a few. so they all got rounded up and put on a c-130 and headed down to the dominican republic and one of them said to the guy who was leading them, the army officer, said, why are we flying in with a helicopter gun ship? why don't we just drive? and he said, the enemy has the roads. and the f.b.i. agent said, the enemy has the roads, i didn't know we were going into a combat operation. it's an amazing story. but hoover ran that country. he ran that coup. his agents penetrated every aspect of the political life of
the dominican republic. and they made sure that lyndon johnson's man got elected. with a lot of help from the united states. a lot of cash on the table. the guy served for 22 years. >> how long did you work on this book? >> three years. >> where would we find you when you were doing your research? >> sitting in my house. my home in new york city. my apartment. at a desk that was piled with declassified f.b.i. documents. >> did have you help? >> no. not on this one. >> you did all of this research yourself? >> yes, sir. >> the oral histories, did you listen to them or did you read the transcripts? >> they're transcribed. and they are unbelievable. it's a society of former f.b.i. agents that did this. and they started on this program about 10 years ago and as far as i know, they're used here with their kind permission. because these are copyrighted. >> are they available to the public to read? >> yes, they're on the web. extraordinary insights.
because the f.b.i. is not just the director. the f.b.i. is thousands and thousands of men and women who put their lives and our lives frankly on the line every day. extraordinary people. extraordinarily dedicated people. and nowadays, quite a diverse bunch. this is not hoover's f.b.i. >> has a book like this been done by anybody else? >> there have been histories of the f.b.i. there have been biographies of hoover. but to my knowledge, no one has ever made use of these oral histories. and no one has ever made use of these intelligence files from j. edgar hoover's desk. and to me, they cast the bureau in a completely new light. we think of the f.b.i. as cops. right? >> how many oral histories have you read for this book? >> there are 208 of them. some of them run to a couple hundred pages. >> and you read them all? >> yes, sir.
>> in three years of writing this book, how much time was spent just reading? >> i would say two years reporting and researching and a year writing. and by writing, i mean rewriting. >> how did you find the oral histories initially? how did you discover them? >> well, i was trying to dig up as i've done for all my books enough material, including enough new material, so that every word can be on the record. and i don't like anonymous sources. i don't like blind quotes. i don't think readers should be asked to take my word for it. but if they can see every word is on the record, every assertion, every quotation documented, then they can have the faith that they're getting the straight scoop. ok. and if it's not the whole truth since nobody knows everything about the secret history of the f.b.i., at least it's the truth. >> how much of your book came out of this freedom of information request?
>> when i read these thousands of documents that include j. edgar hoover's intelligence files, i knew i had something fantastic on my hands. because hundreds of these files are reports that would go directly to hoover. and he would write on them. paragraphs. sometimes long paragraphs with a blue fountain pen. these are orders. these are commands. these are his thoughts. his biting sarcastic humor. sometimes his pettiness. but reading this material with hoover's hand written all over the pages. like looking over his shoulder and listening to him think out loud. it's extraordinary. >> can the public see this? >> some of it, yes. >> where? >> i'm going to try a put a lot of it online.
some of it has been posted by the f.b.i. itself. they have an extraordinary program that they have not gotten credit for that has really come to fruition over the last three years since i started working on this book. called -- you can find this on the web at fbi.gov. and these are declassified reports from the f.b.i. that are just extraordinary. they've done a really good job there. and they have an historian john fox who deserves a lot of credit for putting this stuff out. >> so you're in new york. >> yes, sir. >> you're in a room where you do your work. >> yeah. >> your family is what, what's around you? >> my wife and my two daughters. >> hold are your daughters? >> my dog. my daughters are 15 and 12. and they're good writers. >> going down the list of where you've worked. soho news. >> way back in the 20th century. >> kansas city times. >> good paper. now dead. >> what do you remember most about coverage of the hyatt hotel and --
>> my goodness. i've been at the kansas city times for i guess four months. it was july 17, friday, in 1981. it was about shortly after 7:00. and in the evening. the paper had been pretty much put to bed. folks in kansas city get up early and pack it in early. and i was sitting in the newsroom along with about half a dozen colleagues. and the police scanner radio just went wild. a disaster had happened. we didn't know what. at the hyatt hotel. a brand new hotel which was four blocks from the newsroom. so we just ran down there with a pen and a pad. it was a brand new hyatt hotel. they have great soaring atriums in the lobby that go four or five or six stories up. and there were two concrete sky walks as they called them. that traversed the atrium. brand new. they were hung from the ceiling with steel hanger rods. there were 1,500 people in the lobby at a very popular friday night tea dance. dancing to duke ellington music.
played by an orchestra. and the sky walks fell down. 60 tons of concrete and steel on 1,500 people. brand new hotel. 114 people died. 200 people were grievously injured. we got there about five minutes after it happened, tops. and it was as if -- i mean, the only thing i can compare it to really is the 9-11 attacks. it was as if an airplane had crashed into the lobby. there were hundreds of people dead and dying. why? because the hotel had been put up in 1979. at a time when interest rates were 19%. and they wanted to put it up fast. not hyatt. hyatt managed the hotel. this is the people who built the hotel. they wanted to put it up fast and put it up cheap and they wanted a nice pretty cover on it. because interest rates were so high. so they went to hang these sky walks, they didn't have 120-
foot hanger rods, 60-foot hanger rods and these skywalks one on top of another with an eighth of an inch weld and the thing was -- you can see it. it's pulling up here. and it's pulling down here. it was falling down from the day it was put up. and we found out why. and we won the pulitzer prize for it. it was an old fashioned muckraking story. find out why. >> in 1988? >> this is a group of us at the kansas city times in 1982. >> you won again -- you won again in 1988. >> that was for -- when we first met. we were talking about the secret extra-constitutional spending of american intelligence and military agencies. >> you were at the philadelphia inquirer, 1982 to 1992. >> yes. a good decade. >> what do you remember from your philadelphia experience? >> the guy who ran the paper,
gene roberts, ever meet gene? >> yes. >> he is one of the few people i've ever met who may conceivably be touched by genius. >> >> he went on to the "new york times." >> he had been there in the 1960's covering the south. a good boy from north carolina. when he was a cub reporter coming up, rural county paper in the middle of nowheresville in north carolina, he was covering tobacco. which was the big industry down there. and the editor of this county weekly was blind. and the reporters had to come in and read their stories to him. if the story was badly written or badly reported, this old boy would pound on the desk and say "i can't see it. make me see it." a good lesson for reporters and writers. >> and "the new york times." >> 15 years until just about three years ago.
i was here in washington. that's where we met again. i covered the c.i.a. for many years, national security. i went to afghanistan many times before 9-11. and then after 9-11. because i was covering c.i.a., i wanted to see where the results of american foreign policy and intelligence were happening. you don't just want to cover the plumbing. you want to see what's happening at the end of the spigot. >> i did find on the web a letter you wrote to a young grade school student saying that you twice turned down a request to go to iraq because your wife had a veto. >> we agreed when i started going to dangerous places, which i did -- we've been together for 20 years. i was doing it when i met her. that she would get a veto. because why live in fear? now, look, brian, this takes us
to a very sad moment. 13 of my friends have been killed or grievously injured covering war and terrorism in afghanistan, pakistan, iraq. we lost two of the best this past week. tony shadid and murray colvin. this is a dirty, difficult, dangerous business but if we don't do it? who is going to do it? dictators and tyrants going to run wild and nobody is going to report on it? well, i did my time. i'm going to write books for a living. i'm 55 years old and two teenage daughters. but somebody's got to do it. >> we got to fill in the blanks. white plains where you were born in 1956. putney school in putney, vermont. what was that? >> a very interesting school
founded in 1935. i think the first co- educational boarding school in the country. and it was a farm up on a hill in southern vermont. and the kids ran the farm. and fed themselves. 100 head of dairy cow. big, big vegetable fields. and very interesting experiment. had mixed results. but i got a pretty good education when i got to college at columbia where he majored in history. >> and a masters in journalism. >> right. >> what about the video obits you did. >> they were fun. >> is that part over? >> well, i'm writing books for a living now. they're still doing video. but i can tell you in confidence that we have some extraordinary ones in the can. but only one person decides when they run.
that is the subject. >> and what is the video obit by the way? >> well, you know, the obituary is an art form. you're trying to sum up somebody's life. and you might get 800 words or 1,200 words. so why don't we go interview people on camera like you and i are talking now and they'll talk about their lives. and when they die, we'll put it on the web. and they can have the last word. >> and you can see the art buchwald by -- >> that was extraordinary. that's the first one that ran. and it was a dr. watson come here, i need you moment. because he died. nowadays the world knows about it in 12 seconds. well, in 13 seconds, we had this video obituary up on the internet. and he said hi, i'm art buchwald and i just died. it was extraordinary. >> i want to go back to the book and another footnote.
and you have almost 100 pages of footnotes. how long did you work on those? >> they're part of the book. they're my evidence. ok. this is why i do books entirely on the record. i want readers to know where i'm getting my information. and if they want to know more, they can read on it. >> however, and i read your book, there are a number of quotes, and i went to find it and there's no reference to the quotes. >> you don't footnote your own footnotes, ok? >> you don't footnote your own footnotes. >> you don't put end notes on end notes. those are usually a source of a continual information source cited. >> the white house knew thanks to roswell kilpatrick, a lawyer for "time," and once j.f.k.'s deputy secretary of defense, the magazine's top editors had ordered their reporter sandy smith to identify felt as his own source. then they betrayed his confidence by telling
kilpatrick who told his friend john mitchell that felt was leaking the f.b.i. secrets. >> this is the answer to a very complicated -- this is the end of a very complicated story that begins with a simple question. in 1972, the watergate break-in happens. the nixon administration attempts to obstruct justice because they know the evidentiary trail is way up to the top of the chain of command of the white house. haldeman, erlichman, nixon's right hand and left hand. john mitchell, former attorney general, now campaign manager. john dean, the white house counsel. and ultimately the president himself. so they try to seal off the investigation. the f.b.i. knows this. shortly before the presidential election in 1972, after it looks like the cover-up has succeeded, the press begins to publish stories, and not just "the washington post." time magazine, "the new york times." the "los angeles times." and nixon says, well, we can't say exactly on television what he said. but he said, where in the blankety blank are they getting
this information? and within days they find out. it's coming from the number two man at the f.b.i., mark felt. and this extraordinary conversation between haldeman, nixon's -- how can you put it, lieutenant. and nixon saying -- nixon says, do we know who's leaking? and haldeman says, yes, sir. is it someone at the f.b.i.? yes, sir, very high up. is it mark felt? yes, it is. extraordinary. this was a secret that was kept a secret for 30 years. ok? the identity of deep throat. how do they know? ok? they know because their source is a lawyer for "time" magazine who has demanded that the reporter tell him the identity of his source. >> and he picks up the phone. >> and calls the white house. >> when did that specific
conversation with richard nixon become public? >> oh, gosh. i think just in probably the last decade. >> but i'm wondering why we had to wait so long to find out it was mark felt. >> there are hundreds and hundreds of hours of tapes from the nixon white house that no one has ever transcribed and have never become public. have patience. it's only been what, 40 years. >> and where did you find this story? >> that story is in the files of the watergate special prosecutor's task force. and it's right down there in black and white. haldeman tells nixon, we can't go public with this because we'll screw up our source. and the source is kilpatrick, the former pentagon official who is now a lawyer for "time" magazine. >> that nixon tape has not been released? >> yes, that tape is out. >> and how long do you think it's been out?
>> oh, gosh. i can't tell you precisely but a good long while. >> but again, i'm interested because do i remember you wrote the obit in "the new york times" for mark felt? >> you have a good memory. i did. >> i'm confused about why all of a sudden it took -- i don't know how long he's been dead. he was what, 95? >> he was 95. just in seven years, i think it was 2005. >> but you say in your book, let's go on to that because time is running by that there are more mark felts. >> there were at least five deep throats. >> how could that be? >> well -- >> why isn't bob woodward told us that? >> well, because, i can't read bob woodward's mind. but i think he only knew felt. he had known felt for years. but there were at least four others who worked with felt. and they would meet at the end of the day. and collate their information. and woodward and bernstein, bless them, didn't get all the watergate stories. nor did they get everything right.
sandy smith at "time" magazine, cy hirsch at the "new york times," remarkable justice department team, jack nelson and ron ostraud at the "new york times" and broke story after story and no one gave a damn frankly and richard nixon was elected in a landslide. >> and these guys would pick up the phone and call one of these reporters? >> you know, i doubt that they would pick up the phone at the f.b.i. and call the justice department press room. no. i think that these were clandestine meetings. >> which attorney general had the most difficult relationship with which f.b.i. director? >> oh, no contest. robert f. kennedy and j. edgar hoover. these men hated each other with a burning passion. >> why? >> these bobby wanted to exert his authority to run the f.b.i. he was the attorney general. hoover is supposed to report to
him. hoover wasn't going to report to this pardon my language young whippersnapper. he wanted the people who gave the tour at the f.b.i. building to say well, mr. hoover has been director since 1924. the year before attorney general kennedy was born. and hoover did not submit to his authority. bobby kennedy didn't like that. >> robert kennedy had been -- when he was 35, the -- j. edgar hoover had been since 1919. >> 1924. hoover took over the f.b.i. and bobby was born in 1925. >> at what point do you demonstrate this hatred for one another? >> the conversations between these two men will sear the hair off the back of your neck. >> where do you find those? >> right in this book. >> i know that but where did you find it? >> in the f.b.i. files and justice department files and the declassified documents. >> how did they know that?
>> how did -- >> wherever it is. how did the material get its way on the paper? of their conversations? >> their conversations are transcribed. kennedy white house tapes. there are johnson white house tapes. just as there are nixon white house tapes. and everyone at the justice department was witness to this. >> and somebody would run off and do a memo for the day or something? >> and bobby kennedy tells lyndon johnson after president kennedy's assassinated, bobby stays on as attorney general for a while. and he says i had no relationship with mr. hoover. i can't talk to him. he thinks i'm trying to run a coup to overthrow your government. and he did. hoover did think that. and he describes this conversation for richard nixon on tape. >> are we better off or not better off having had j. edgar hoover running the f.b.i.? >> now, that is a big question. 48 years the man ran the f.b.i. there's nothing like it in
american history that a man would serve that long with that much power under so many presidents. he built the f.b.i. from a disreputable gang of cheap detectives to the most modern and effective federal force of its kind in the world. every fingerprint that's on file, every bit of biometric data, every surveillance camera on every street corner in every city owes its existence to him. he built the modern surveillance state. he built the modern national security state. one man. >> so you announce this in this book that you're writing a history of the united states military. how can you do that in one book? >> the book is going to cover the period from after world war ii to the present day. it's going to look at the use of american military power through the prism of the office of secretary of defense and the
joint chiefs of staff. the civilian leader at the pentagon and the uniformed military officers who control the four services. >> when is it due? >> give me three years. these books take three years. >> last and very important question. you are tim weiner. >> correct. >> the next person you meet will call you tim weiner. >> i married a wonderful woman named kate doyle and our daughters named ruby and emma doyle, and i thought i might change my name to timothy doyle. >> why the weiner and weiner? >> these are germanic pronunciations that get mangled in english. if you come from vienna, it's weiner. but if your ancestors made wine in a vineyard somewhere in the austrian hungary empire like mine did it's weiner. >> why would your daughters take your wife's name rather than yours? >> that was my idea. the entire male line of her
family has died out. i have two brothers. it's a good name. >> tim weiner, author of "enemies: a history of the f.b.i." thank you for joining us. >> it is a pleasure talking with you. \[captioning performed by national captioning institute] \[captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2012] >> for a copy of this program call 1-877-662-7726. for free transcripts or to give us your comments about this program visit us at q-and-a.org. and they are also available as podcasts. >> next, live, and your calls
and comments on "washington journal" live at 1:30 p.m., the japanese ambassador to the united states talks about recovery efforts after fukushima. live at 6:30 p.m., newt gingrich and rick santorum take part in a forum in birmingham, alabama. >> congratulations to all this year's winners of the cspan studentcam competition. the team was the constitution and you and joined which part of the conversation of the constitution is important to you. join us morning's in april as we show the top 27 videos on c- span. we will talk with the winners during "washington journal." >> this morning, marc